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Appleby Latest to Enjoy a Luau of Tasty Scoring

Times Staff Writer

A year ago, a mission began to decide how low golf scores could drop before they disappeared from view. Ernie Els got the ball rolling here at last year’s Mercedes Championships when he shot 31 under par and won by a mile, or eight shots, which only seemed like a mile.

Soon, low scores were all the rage on the PGA Tour, but it all started at the Plantation Course, the same place where Stuart Appleby takes his shot at what Els did a year ago.

Despite the 66 he shot Saturday, Appleby is going to have to torch the place with a 61 today to erase Els’ record. That probably won’t happen, but at least there’s a very nice consolation prize of $1.06 million for Appleby if he holds on to his two-shot lead over Vijay Singh after 54 holes.

Appleby hasn’t been bothered by much so far as he sails through the first PGA Tour event of 2004. For most players, it’s the first test to see if their games are experiencing any post-holiday jet lag, and Appleby is passing with flying colors.

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After he bogeyed the 14th hole, Appleby finished with a flash and birdied three of the last four holes. He has rounds of 66-67-66 for a 20-under 199 total.

“You just get that rhythm going,” he said. “I don’t know, I guess I like the way my game is going.”

Going, going, gone?

Somebody else is going to have to come up with something, and quickly. Maybe it will be Singh. He didn’t have an especially great day on the greens, but he still shot a 69 and has a three-shot edge over Retief Goosen, who had a 64 that included a 30 on the front side.

Singh lamented his putting.

“I think I made everything yesterday,” said Singh, who birdied the last seven holes Friday when he shot a 64.

Darren Clarke is one shot behind Goosen and one ahead of Tiger Woods, who began the day nine shots behind Singh and ended it seven behind Appleby despite a 65.

Woods had nine birdies, one bogey and two three-putts. He also three-putted the par-five 15th from 70 feet to make par when he needed to make birdie.

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“I cleaned up my round, but I could have been two shots closer,” Woods said, referring to his three-putt greens. “That sort of leaves a bad taste in my mouth.”

Woods said he’s going to have to shoot a 62 or 63 today to have a chance.

“If Stuart has a solid front nine, he can put it out of reach,” Woods said. “All the guys coming from behind, we need to have the wind blow. That’s the only way we have a chance.”

From his vantage point, Woods said low scores probably will remain the trend on the PGA Tour, but it’s all about tougher pin placements.

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“With the tour setting up the flags so much harder, that’s how the management of scores is going,” he said. “At the first of last year, we saw two or three flags three paces from the edge [of the green]. At the end of the year, we’d see six or seven [flags] three paces from the edge. They’re trying to make a concerned effort to make the courses a lot more difficult.”

The Plantation Course isn’t that hard for these guys, only if the wind blows like crazy, and beating par around here is generally simple. But beating Appleby might prove to be a lot more difficult.


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